Researchers Examine Pig Behaviour to Assess Pain

CANADA - Researchers with the Prairie Swine Centre are looking at animal behaviour in hopes of developing new methods for assessing pain caused by procedures such as castration and tail docking, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 19 May 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

Under Canada's updated Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs castration performed on piglets over ten days of age must be done with an anesthetic to deaden feeling during surgery and an analgesic to provide long term pain control however by July 2016 castration at any age must be performed with an analgesic and tail docking performed after seven days of age must be done with pain control.

Lee Whittington, the president and CEO of the Prairie Swine Centre, says identifying the most effective medications poses the next challenge.

Lee Whittington-Prairie Swine Centre

From a research perspective we anticipated this about a year and a half ago and have been looking at ways of measuring how does a piglet respond because our typical measures of pain which are usually Cortisol measures in the saliva isn't particularly good for this type of procedure so we've been looking at how do we measure piglet behaviour to see whether or not pain has been abated.

If you've ever been on a farm we all know that, if castration is done at properly at three days of age and piglets are put back down after the procedure is done, they run over and nurse immediately and it's really hard to detect that there is much in the way of pain there so I think over the next two years there needs to be a lot of clarification on what medications a producer can use and how to do it.

Mr Whittington notes, as the new code is incorporated into the animal care assessment, the industry's tool for managing the Canadian Quality Assurance Programme, industry will be looking for guidance on how that will affect their quality assurance programme.

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